Throughout American history, the debate on gun control has divided the nation. Gun control is a difficult subject to discuss. There is so much controversy over guns that it can become difficult to analyze the subject, through an objective lens.
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Americans today own more guns than ever recorded. The firearm industry has grown tremendously and is estimated to be a thirty billion dollar industry, which is contributing to the countries economy (Hindman, Nate C.). While mass shootings are on the rise, Americans on both sides of the argument wonder what the solution to all these issues are. The history of gun violence and gun control, including long-term effects and short-term effects, are important to understand when discussing gun control. Supporting evidence shows that there is a divide between those that support gun control, and those that oppose it.
Before we begin to discuss the topic of gun control, it is important to understand the history of guns in America. Americans have made guns apart of their culture since the birth of the nation. Guns in America date back to the revolutionary war, where guns were used to fight the British (Gray, Sarah). During the revolutionary war, there was neither money nor was there manpower to sustain an army large enough for defense. Citizens were called in militias when the time came (Gray).
The right to bear arms has also been embedded in our constitution. The second amendment of the constitution states A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. This is the most important gun law created in the United States. This law protects peoples’ right to own firearms for self-defense purposes.
However, the history of guns did not stop there. Guns played a vital role in westward expansion. During the time period of America’s expansion, several wars and bargaining deals were in progress. The idea of manifest destiny, aided by guns, led to the growth of the nation. Firearms were considered an essential tool to American citizens during expansion. The Wild West was considered dangerous, yet exciting, encouraging people to keep their firearms on hand in order to move forward (Gray).
As technology advanced, firearms become more and more dangerous. Gun technologies are constantly improving, and are made to shoot with more accurate precision, speed, and are capable of firing several bullets with just a squeeze of the trigger (Gray). Wars became even deadlier due to the advancement of firearms. Ironically, however, this only enticed Americans even more to buy a gun because of how refined and effective it became. Today, gun ownership is at the highest rate ever recorded. The days of fighting with muskets, which can take up to two minutes to reload a single bullet, are over. Now guns can spray bullets with ease, and any citizen can own one (Gray).
To understand gun control and why many Americans are either for or against it, we need to look at the data. These statistics are unbiased facts, gathered from citizens’ standpoints, which are then interpreted by policy makers and government officials. There are 393 million guns circulating in America, ranking the United States #1 for the highest gun ownership in the world (National Center for Health Statistics). In 2017, research shows that firearms killed an estimated 40,000 people. Approximately 60% of those deaths were related to suicides by firearms. White men are more likely to commit suicide than any other demographic, while black men are more like to die from gun-related crime (National Center for Health Statistics). Firearms are the second leading cause of death in teens and children after motor vehicle accidents. Evidence suggests that there is a great disparity when it comes to social and economic inequalities and gun violence (National Institute of Justice). These statistics are often used in political debates in favor of stricter gun laws.
It is also important to look at gun law statistics, to see what is effective. A study done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that States with stricter gun laws had a lower rate of gun violence. An example of this is evident in New York and California, where the strictest gun laws are in place and, therefore, gun related crimes are very low (National Rifle Association). Ironically though, a study conducted by the FBI found that gun laws do not affect crime rates. Even though crime rates were not affected, gun related crime rates had significantly decreased. Gun laws help save more lives. For example, banning automatic weapons for civilian purchase helps prevent mass shootings (FBI). In addition, requiring a background check prior to purchasing a firearm can prevent criminals from obtaining a weapon (FBI).
Many debates on gun control sparked due to mass shootings in America. A mass shooting is defined as 4 or more shooting victims in a given incident. There have been 99 mass shootings in America since 1982 (CNN Library). Some of the most gruesome mass shootings have occurred recently within the decade. For instance, in 2017, a mass shooter killed 58 people and wounded hundreds in the populated city of Las Vegas. In 2018, the parkland shootings occurred, in which 17 students and faculty were killed. The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012 claimed the lives of 27 young children and faculty members. All of these mass shootings were carried out with an AR-15 assault rifle (CNN Library).
What signify these mass shootings the most are Americans and their unwillingness to change. The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting had everyone saying never again will we let this happen to our children (CNN Library). Ironically, increasingly more school shootings have occurred since then. Gun advocates and gun control advocates have not been able to move forward and productively stop a mass shooting. Gun advocates blame mental illness as the primary problem. They believe the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to put forth a good guy with a gun (National Rifle Association). On the other hand, people who want stricter gun laws blame assault weapons and how easy it is to obtain a gun.
Gun control laws have been created to prevent mass casualties and gun related crimes. Although these laws are in place to protect the individual, they also limit the individuals right to bear arms (CNN Library). For example, laws that ban automatic weapons, require a background check, and require permits all serve their purpose to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands. Another active gun law requires all firearms to have a safety mechanism, which prevents accidental fatalities and injuries (National Rifle Association).
Short-term effects of more gun control laws often have the opposite effect on gun ownership. During Obama’s presidency, gun ownership was its highest, despite President Obama’s efforts to enforce stricter gun laws (Hindman). This is mainly due to the fact that people were afraid of government crackdown on firearms and wanted to stock up. This isn’t just a rare occurrence. Every time gun control gets tighter, more people buy firearms. After the Sandy Hook massacre, gun sales skyrocketed in Connecticut. Contrarily, short-term effects of little to no gun control result in more deaths per year and an increase of mass shootings (Hindman).
Alternatively, long-term effects of gun control laws tell a different story. States that have stricter laws have lower gun related deaths as opposed to states with very little gun control (FBI). New York and California tend to have the strictest laws in the country and spend a lot more money on healthcare and education compared to states like Florida. Long term effects of little to no gun control would result in significantly more deaths per year (Welch, Ashley).
The debate over gun control is one of the most controversial topics, dividing most Americans. It is important to understand both the positives and negatives of gun control. There are many positive impacts caused by gun control. For starters, a positive aspect of gun control is that banning high powered automatic assault rifles reduces gun homicide and reduces the amount of deaths in a mass shooting (National Center for Health Statistics). Another reason why gun laws should be in place is because guns are rarely used in self-defense (National Institute of Justice). Only .80% of victims out of 30,000,000 violent crimes committed between 2007 and 2011 were able to effectively defend themselves with a firearm (Welch). Lastly, gun laws that require safety features and mechanisms effectively reduce accidental deaths by nearly double (National Rifle Association).
Looking at the negative impact of gun control is just as important as looking at the positives. Stricter gun control laws do not affect the suicide rate. A study found that more people use firearms to commit suicide, however, in places where guns are extremely hard to get, the suicide rate stayed the same (National Institute of Justice). The reason being is if someone wants to commit suicide they will do whatever it takes, unfortunately. A firearm just makes it faster and easier for the individual. Another negative aspect to gun control is that gun laws will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns (National Institute of Justice). Criminals usually do not care about breaking the law to obtain a firearm. They will do whatever fits their means. A common argument for this is that gun control laws take guns away from law-abiding citizens, where as the criminal is willing to break the law (National Rifle Association).
The importance of understanding gun control cannot be stressed enough. Gun control affects everyone whether they own a firearm or not. The reason it affects everyone is because of security and protection. Gun control provides more security against gun violence; however, ownership of a gun provides personal protection as well. Every law needs to be carefully thought out to protect the public but also not infringe on people’s gun rights. In order for positive change to occur, people need to become mindful and unbiased in their decision-making.
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